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Buddhadharma : Summer 2005
summer 2005| 60 |buddhadharma very grounded, very centered. He doesn’t speak much. There are times when he is just there, as a lama, and then suddenly he looks at me and [snap], my whole body is filled with an electric current and a sense of certainty. When you met him for the first time, what were your feelings? Did you have trouble relating to him as a child? I was afraid to go and see him. He was not quite three years old. I was very frightened, partly because I was sure that when he saw me he would think, “Oh, what a funny-looking thing,” and burst into tears, and then I’d feel upset. Because you’re a woman? Yes, because I am a Western nun and he had never seen one, and I was concerned how a child would react to something strange. I kept putting it off and then finally I thought, I’ve got to go see him. So I went up and, as I was prostrating, he looked at me and said to his attendant, “It’s my nun! It’s my nun! Look, look.” He was jumping up and down and laughing and so happy. I burst into tears! [Laughs] I was the one who started crying, and then he became worried because I was crying, so tears started run- ning down his cheeks. The two of us were just a riot. We then spent the whole morning playing together and we had a great time running around. His attendant later told me he was a very quiet child, who usually didn’t play with strangers. He had his own little seat with a table in front, where he would sit cross-legged. When people came he would just sit there, often for hours, and he wasn’t even three yet! He would bless them and give them food. His attendants said they hadn’t taught him this. When people left, he’d ask, “Have they gone?” They’d say, “Yes, Rinpoche,” and then he’d get down and start playing with his toys. When somebody else would come, he’d drop his toys and go and sit back down again. You can’t teach someone that, not at that age. There’s an inherent knowing what to do. When you see these genuine incarnations when they’re tiny children, and see how much they already know, how much they remember, how much they are lamas, then you really have to believe in this whole tulku system. It’s not just training. If you see young tulkus when they’re with other young monks, it’s like in a Broadway show or something, where the main character is spotlighted and the others kind of fade into the background. You think, “Who is that tulku?” Because that’s all you see, even though they’re all dressed the same and they’re all the same age. It’s like the tulku is illumined. They don’t look like the other ones. Why are they all boys? I asked my lama that and he said that his sister, at the time of her birth, had more auspicious signs than he did. You know, Tibetans have a big thing about signs when the mother is pregnant and at the time of birth. He said, “My sister, when she was going to be born, had more signs than I did, and everyone got very excited. Then when it was a girl, they said, ‘Oops, mistake.’” Now if she had been a boy, they would have looked after her, sent her to a good monastery, tried to find out who she was, and so forth. She would have been properly trained and been able to benefit other beings. But because she was a girl – with the way things were in Tibet – she was nothing. She was ignored. She wasn’t educated. Instead, she was married off at the right time. He said this happened again and again. He said, therefore, because of the social culture of Tibet, it just didn’t make sense to come back as a girl. The only way girls could come back and actually have a chance was to be reborn in very high lama families. That way they could get education and training and eventually function as lamas. But ordinary women wouldn’t have that opportunity. Even as nuns they don’t have the opportunity because they’re not educated. So were people mistaken about your lama’s sister? No, I think it was a tulku trying to break the mold. But you can’t. Do you think it will ever be broken? Certainly in the Tibetan communities in exile, the girls are being educated the same as the boys. And now the nuns are being given the same kind of monastic education as the monks. So if there is someone with potential, hopefully it will flower and they will have the kind of training that will enable them to benefit others. But still, almost all the tulkus being born are men. At Zen Mountain Monastery we are studying one of Master Dogen’s fascicles, Jinzu (Spiritual Pow- er), and the whole sangha is wrestling with this right now. The question that Daido Roshi keeps putting to us is this: Layman Pang said that my wondrous functioning is chopping wood and car- rying water. So the question is, what’s the differ- ence between somebody who is chopping wood and carrying water as activity that needs to happen to keep the fire burning, and someone who does that as a realization of spiritual power? I think the difference is that when an ordinary person drinks tea, we just drink tea. When an